Say the name “OSGEMEOS” to someone and you’ll likely be met with a confused face. Show them a photo of OSGEMEOS’ work, however, and their eyes will instantly light up with recognition and they’ll soon be naming all the cities they’ve seen their work in before. That seems to be both the draw and mystique for a majority, if not all, of the world’s most famous and prolific artists who use the streets as their medium.
“OSGEMEOS,” Portuguese for “The Twins,” are no exception and are perhaps the most well known street art duo in the world, especially when you set a qualitative filter for “Brazilian” and “identical twins.” Coming of age artistically in the ’80s far outside the reaches of the usual street art and graffiti epicenters like New York, brothers Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo developed their own unique style that even today continues to defy categorization.
With massive pieces in practically every cultural hub across the globe, OSGEMEOS’ newest work in the Oberbilk borough of Düsseldorf continues the artists’ reputation for livening up dreary urban sprawls with their unforgettable, surreal characters.
On the day of the mural’s unveiling, made possible with the help of local arts shop Hood Company, we had the chance to catch up with the twin brothers and learn all there is to know about the new piece, their career up until this point and how their upbringing has influenced their work. Check out the full interview below and see the mural for yourself at Oberbilker Allee 283 – 285, 40227 Düsseldorf. (Editor’s note: Gustavo and Otavio are referred to collectively below as OSGEMEOS.)
Tell us about this mural.
OSGEMEOS: Actually, we had a few ideas before. We had, maybe, five different ideas when we saw the wall for the first time. Then, we tried to decide which one was gonna fit the shape of the wall. We decided to use this big character.
It’s funny, because Germany was the first place we came to in Europe in 1998 or ’99. Since then, we’ve traveled a lot through Europe. We have a very special love for here because it was our first place. We don’t have many walls in Germany; we have one in Munich, one in Berlin, this one now.
How did it come together? I assume you guys had permission.
OSGEMEOS: Yes, we have permission from someone representing the building. In some cities you need permission from the city, too. The space that we used to put the lift, the car shop, we asked the guy and he said, “Okay, you guys can use this place here.”
When you guys are making a new piece, do you also consider the city and try to put it into the work?
OSGEMEOS: Always. It’s fun because depending which kind of city you go to, you feel different, the environment and inspiration. I was in Berlin before coming here and it’s very different, Berlin and Düsseldorf, totally different. We love it here, we like to be here.
Can you walk us through the process of making a mural this size?
OSGEMEOS: The scale starts small, like on paper. When we start to do the outline, we have to think about, “sometimes you need to change something.” Sometimes we stop and change to a different idea, put more things, think things out.
It’s like a movie, always, continuing the transformation. The creative process never stops.
It’s funny, the way we work now, we sketch the whole wall and the colors are 100% improvised. Only the yellow, the official yellow, but the rest is improvised 100%.
There’s a lot going on in this mural. Is there a certain story you’re telling with this one?
OSGEMEOS: Everything is connected. Everything there in the picture, it’s really deep. You need more time to understand it, to go very deep inside.
It seems there’s lots of subconscious things going on as well.
OSGEMEOS: Yeah. Some is very obvious and some we don’t know. We just make.
Just talking right now and seeing you guys work, it seems you have this experience of sharing thoughts without really thinking about it.
OSGEMEOS: Every time. Every time. It’s always like this. We really don’t need to explain to each other what we’re going to do. We know. We know what we are doing.
It’s very hard to us to explain this because we are inside of this since we’re born. It’s difficult to come from outside and see this. It’s like two windows, one that we open to jump inside of this world, and another window that we open to come back from the world, to reality. We need both. We need to be there to feel comfortable, and to get inspired, and we need to jump into another window, this window to share with you and with everybody what we see there.
Do you find that difficult sometimes? Is it hard to balance?
OSGEMEOS: Sometimes, yes. This makes it exciting. This makes it good, everything we do, because nothing is easy. It’s very difficult to finish a wall like that, it’s not easy. Since from the beginning, the idea to the end, it’s a long process. Now it’s there, it’s for everybody. People that live here in the area, people that travel here, people that are working, everybody.
There’s an expression in German, “Papier ist geduldig,” which basically means that you can’t wait for inspiration you just have to get to work. Is that how you guys approach your work?
OSGEMEOS: Yes, we’re drawing a lot. We have a lot of ideas we have to write down before they slip away, before they’re gone.
Has technology influenced how you guys work? Has it made it easier or harder?
OSGEMEOS: Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not good. We like the process, this primitive thing. Drawing the wall like this, we never use a projector, we use a stick and brush, old-school style. You have to know how to balance everything.
With social media, everybody has access to every image at any time. Do you guys think about that at all? Does that change your approach to your work in any way?
OSGEMEOS: With or without social media, we are happy with one single marker, to go outside and write something. When people take a photo, this makes us excited.
This is a good point, because many guys from India, or Thailand, or China, or Japan, they see what we do now. We finish the wall now, they’ve already seen it. Almost like a life, somehow.
It’s very important to find yourself, who you are, and what you do, and why you do. You can share with millions of people an empty can, but it’s better to share full cans. We always think that a wall like this is a big canvas where we can share what we believe. Once you put it there, information, you share this information with everybody. You can change ideas, you can change people, you can give some hope. It’s very important. Every single line we do, it’s important.
Do you think growing up in Brazil in the ’80s without this technology and access to everything allowed you to develop your own style more easily?
OSGEMEOS: It’s both because we didn’t have information from everywhere but we also had some people show up in our lives that influenced us a lot, like Speto, he’s an old-school graffiti guy from Sao Paulo, the Rock Steady Crew, Barry McGee, they all influenced us a lot. It was a very simple, very natural way.
Your character are now in many cities around the world and people are familiar with them. They’ve almost taken on a life of their own. What are your thoughts on that?
OSGEMEOS: We know that everything we do is alive. They have a life, they are real. They live in this place. Everything we paint, we know they can talk, they can walk, they have a name, they are real people. They are alive.
Lastly, the cities around your work change and in a way the artwork becomes a part of the city. Is that something you consider when working on a new piece?
OSGEMEOS: I think it’s natural. They become part of the city because people identify with this. We worry more about today though. We leave it there, so we are happy. We’re finished. We hope you can enjoy. Tomorrow, we see tomorrow. I think people will understand the message, because everything you do with love, people feel that. Somehow, they feel. We saw b-boys for the first time in 1983, in front of the house of our parents, it changed our life forever.